Posts Tagged With: backpacking

5 days in the Blue Mountains

We had been to a friend’s wedding and had some time to kill before we saw Eminem so thought we would head up to the Blue Mountains for a few days and do some camping (sleeping in our wagon) while we weren’t to far away from safety. Armed with only a Camp 6 book, an unpaid version of WikiCamps app and a temperamental Navman we were obviously going to have an interesting time we intelligently set off on a rainy day.

After a few hours stocking up at a local mall we made our way up and up and up. I couldn’t make any sense of the Camps6 book (I soon found out there were maps missing), the wikicamps app had a pin dropped in the middle of no where and the NavMan was being an a**e. We decided to check out a Free rest stop/camp area with hot showers as recommended by wikicamps users, there was just one problem…the app had two pins dropped at different locations and we ended up nose down a high hill leading to oblivion. It was terrifying and not what we needed in the dark and on our first night flying solo. Nevertheless we stressed and we moaned and we worried and miraculously we figured it out and found it. We chucked the stuff off the bed and hit the hay, we awoke to a cute little lake and a hot shower.

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You know on movies when something goes right and the person flings up their hands to the sky and a holy voice “AHHHHHHHH” erupts around them … it was kind of like that. We were alive and we would be clean. Great! So we set about making a coffee and sorting our new purchases into easily reachable and safely stored locations. I made a few modifications to the wagon and asked Anita to check the lights. She did and she did a good job. Such a good job that she left the things on and killed the battery. That elated feeling I had earlier was replaced with dread, a bit silly really considering we had bought a jump starter…but do you think either of us knew how to use it?!?

Not a chance! Anita disturbed an Aussie ranger on his lunch, it was something akin to trying to break a lion away from a gazelle. He was not happy. Nor was he happy when Anita refused to pick the jump starter up because she is afraid off batteries. We must have looked like the biggest fools, however, not entirely our fault. We looked at the instructions and they were confusing and the ranger knew what he was doing so we let him (everyone’s got to learn somehow, right?). So angry ranger gone, engine running and stuff packed to headed to our next destination…Jenolan Caves.

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Diving for 2 hours on a road so winding and narrow I couldn’t actually look down at some stage, the scenery of the hazy mountains was idyllic. We kept seeing signs for the caves but didn’t seem to be seeing much of anything else on the Jenolan Road and we were beginning to get a little worried because it was getting to late to turn back. Confused again we were silent then all of a sudden both of our jaws dropped into our laps as we drove through the grand archway of Jenolan Caves, a huge passage worn into the mountain by millions of years of running water. We were so exited to see the beautiful place. We parked up and booked a walking tour through the Temple of Baal cave to see the natural crystal formed in the chambers, the temperature 15.2 degrees was perfect. There is some really amazing crystal to be seen and a beautiful shawl called the Angel’s wing that really is spectacular.

We asked if there was somewhere we could stay overnight to do another tour the following morning, it just so happened they had a 2nd car park located up the hill with BBQ’s and a hot shower. All the tap water is natural cave water and perfect for drinking. Again we had been lucky. So we had a BBQ with a local friendly parrot, who seems to make quite the impression on visitors, and we slept. When we were ready the next morning we decided to move the car closer to the bathroom and do the hillside walk back down to the cave office to book another tour. We booked The Imperial Diamond which was a marvel of tunnels and chambers and the cave river that is stunning.

The moment we booked the tour the heavens opened. It was 11am and our tour was at 4pm and it was a 45 minute hike back to the car with Anita’s new camera. The rain was not letting up so we resided with some other visitors and dossed about the Grand Archway taking pictures (a lot of them) for a while. It wasn’t that bad just cold, we still enjoyed the day regardless and the site staff took pity on us and graciously gave us a lift back in the staff shuttle. We so we decided to stay near the bathroom and we settled down for the night, only to be woken by strange noises. Kangaroos, wombats and an unbelievbly loud thud. We couldn’t figure out what it was but it scared the crap out of us. We found out in the morning that due to the rain a tree had decided to uproot and park itself in our spot from the night before…again lucky.

We packed up and headed out to destination Wentworth Falls. We stopped on the way at Katoomba to do the general tourist shots of the 3 sisters, we went for a lovely hike at Leura Cascades and put Anita’s new camera through its paces. Finally hitting Wentworth Falls late in the afternoon … again. This late in the day arrival stuff just keeps happening to us, I think we are too easily distracted on the road or Anita drives really, REALLY slow. You can be the judge over the next few weeks.

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We headed part way down the falls and marvelled in their beauty and in the difficulty of the trek to the bottom, one that we were not willing to undertake at sundown. It was disappointing as we could have sat in the rock pools and viewed the falls from the bottom and we had to go back to the city the following day. So we walked a few smaller tracks and decided to stay in the carpark (not officially allowed but no one bothered us, because there was no one there). Waking up their early morning was something special, we took a few of the shortcut trails to take in the sights and the fresh air. Just us, before the tourists arrived to get their heads in your perfect view and spoil the silence with their chatter. To stand looking over the mountain range in silence taking it in with every sense was unique and definitely something I will not forget in a hurry.

This trip was fun, there was just one little detail…we had no signal and our favourite Sydney hostel (which we were booked into) had a secret gig there by the one and only GREEN DAY. We only got the text the morning after, the only word said…NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Beside that we had a blast and we are so excited for the next adventure.

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16 nights in Sydney

16 nights in Sydney

OK, so I know I am a little bit late with this post but I do hang my head in shame and pray you accept my humble apologies. I have been having the most unbelievable problems getting a signal on my phone to post and it takes a long time to type on a Galaxy S3. I know youre all thinking excuses , excuses but I really am struggling to do much better. Anywho! This post is all about the first and only 16 nights (consecutive nights) I have stayed in Sydney in the 5 months I have been in Australia. I have just completed my 3 months agricultural work and will post all about that soon enough. This post is an update for friends, family and readers alike of what I have been up to.

It started on the 1st March, we arrived early and headed to Alfred Park Budget Accommodation (Trip Advisor review here) and placed our things in the basement before we left to explore the area. This was when we found Organic Produce for a great slice of gluten free banana bread. We were waiting for a friend to arrive from Brisbane to join us for the Mardi Gras, due to her delayed flights we missed the Bondi Beach drag races which I had planned to go to. The hostel over booked and we were moved out, due to the move and needing to check back into the hostel I also missed the 9am fun run on the 2nd March.

However, all was not lost! Some pre-afternoon drinking begun and we soon got into the swing of things. We spent a good amount of time and money in the Columbian Hotel on Oxford Street while waiting for the parade to start, our friends were in the Dykes On Bikes section of the parade so naturally we wanted a good spot on the fence and the pub seemed like a great place to wait out of the rain. When we did go to the fence we looked amazingly stylish in our red, yellow and blue ponchos. We were the envy of the crowd Im almost positive.

The parade was AMAZING and it really does give you a sense of pride to be open minded and be around other open minded people without any prejudice of any kind. People who just want to be themselves and support one another. It sounds cliché I know, but it is true. I got goose bumps when the armed forces paraded and when I saw lots of happy parents and children enjoying the celebrations. After a lot of hours standing we got changed and headed to an after party in Newtown at the Imperial Hotel. Some of the Dykes were members of the band that were playing and we paid the $30 entry, it was worth every penny. I didnt catch their name due to high levels of alcohol in my bloodstream but I will try to research and get back to you.

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The following day consisted of getting in at 6am, up at 1pm, bed at 6pm up at 9pm and back out at 11pm until 6am all over again. Wow that was heavy duty drinking. So know we are on the 4th March and spent the day allowing our friend from home gracious time to quickly see Sydney Harbour, the Botanical Gardens and the State Library of New South Wales where there was an odd exhibition showing hundreds of centuries old photos. It was all taken at a quick glance and it was quick!

Seeing as we were hoping to be in Sydney for a while we decided it wise to be looking for work, we tried the usual backpacker places to look yes this includes Gumtree! We quickly got bored of browsing and had an early night to make up for the late ones, I think I really am getting old. The 5th was a good day for us, we hopped a couple of buses and sat our bikini clad butts on BONDI BEACH, yes I am a massive geek who watched Bondi Rescue on Pick TV when I am at home and yes I was so excited to see the guards and even more excited that they yelled at me because I wasnt near enough to the flagged zone! I do not recommend swimming in unsafe areas, I just didnt realise at the time due to excitement still smiling a little inside.

Between the 6th and the 8th we went back to Bondi twice, I got my nose pierced and we really got into the whole looking for work thing (view my post here). We signed up to TAW (travelers at work), which we thought would be more helpful than Gumtree and at least more genuine than some of the weird folks out there. All the way up to the 8th we had been searching for hostels for the weekend coming, there was one problem none were available and hotels were going for $300 per night. Considering it would cost us that for two of us in the hostel for the week we couldnt afford that. So we were stuck with two nights and no where to stay. We had no idea what to do next and almost half expected to join the backpackers under Eddy Street bridge.

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All was not lost, we managed to secure a room at a show house belonging to someone we knew and all we had to do was make sure all our stuff was out of sight and not use the bedding. Phew! So we loaded our lockers and took a weekend bag ready to hit Future Music Festival 2013 my little early Birthday present to myself.

So we get to Saturday 9th March and we head off to Future Music, we set off early ( as always) to make sure we were at the front of the cue to hit the stages, we really neednt have bothered. It was a very hot day, so hot that Neet burnt her eyeballs from looking at the stages all day WEAR EYE PROTECTION! Go faster stripes arent a good look on eyeballs, trust me! During the day we saw a heap of amazing artists including Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora, PSY, Nervo, Rudimental, Dizzy Rascal, Madeon, Azealia Banks (we kind of heard her when she eventually arrived on stage), Gypsy and the Cat, The Prodigy (yes I was bouncing like a nutter) and Fun. My highlights were doing Gangnam Style with PSY, singing my heart out to Fun. and jumping around to the harsh sounds of the Prodigy! The worst part of my day was poisoning myself with an energy drink, I was so thirsty at 11am and the bars werent open for alcohol so I thought Id have an energy drink. I would usually check the ingredients of most things I consume but for some bizarre reason I didnt, I could blame the excitement but I was simply too idle to read. BIG MISTAKE! The V energy drink contains WHEAT whyyyyyyy??!!! I just wanted a little pick me up, I had no coffee in the morning and knew it would be a long day.. Drinks are beginning to be my enemy and gluten free nightmare! I had to settle for cans of Strongbow pear but the cans were small and the price was large at $9.

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After a hard days singing and dancing my body had had enough, due to gluten my immune system dropped and allowed in the onset of a cold which came with a heavy chest. I felt like my Converse, rough, dirty and done in! Things looked up though, Anita got a call about an interview for the Wilderness Society on the 11th and we decided (due to speaking to some new friends at the hostel) to actually try to sign up to Medicare (see this post for more details). Anita didnt get the job, but we did get Medicare cover sorted which was a weight off our minds.

After a couple of days wondering around and shopping (I was torn with the decision of sticking with my phone or buying an iPad or small netbook), we made plans to meet our new friends in the morning for the coastal walk between Coogee beach and Bondi beach. Its roughly around 7km and at a snails pace of discovery and picture taking with Amy (a lovely girl taking her last chance saloon shot at backpacking) and Rebecca (the hostel resident who is a bit of a hippy that cant seem to leave Sydney but is such a funny and sweet girl).

On the way we found some interesting places, like the concrete beach at Gordons Bay, the beautiful Bronte Beach and the great cemetery. We stopped at Bondi and indulged in one of my average gluten free lunches of carrot sticks and dip, this time I decided on smoked salmon and dill! Yum! We finished the evening off with a well earned box of goon and some stir fry made with gluten free vermicelli noodles.

Following our exertion and minimum walk of 5km per day we decided to hit the shops again on the 14th, this time we stayed around the CBD. The day held a surprise though, in the form of a phone call from a lady offering us our 3 months agricultural work for our second year visas. The only thing was we were to leave Sydney on the 17th.

Our last full day in Sydney had to be something we hadnt done yet, we decided to hop a ferry over to Manly and see the beach. There was just one problem, the beach was closed!! The surf was hectic and the coast was foggy with mist, thats not to say the place was quite, it wasnt. It was so busy! We caught the little market come car boot sale and then had lunch. We wondered through the high street that also had a market containing organic produce, original arts and beautiful jewellery. I had my first baby Thai coconut and almost died with pleasure while drinking it, I seriously have never consumed anything quite so amazing. I have a prediction of my favourite beverage when I hit the shores of Thailand. The main beach was closed the entire day, however, we did manage a dip next to the ferry port before heading home.

17th March 2013 we caught a train to Tarre and hoped for the best!

During these two weeks in Sydney it felt like we didnt do all that much, or see all that much of the city and the surrounding area and I dont doubt there is a lot more to do. You just need a lot of money and time to do it and the trouble with being a backpacker is money spends all too quickly out here. I do like Sydney and I would like to spend a little more time there but what my friends told me back home was true dont spend too much time in Sydney, its overrated . I would like to experience more culturally and slow down instead of always being in a rush, so far I feel like my time is slipping past me quicker than I can blink and I just want to take it in a little more.

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Medicare (health care in Australia)

So to begin my short posts on tips for British Backpackers coming to Australia I thought I would start with medical care. As it is something important but no one ever seemed to know the answers to any of my questions.

Most peole believed (as I did) that we are not entitled to any form of free or subsidised health care in Australia….well that would be wrong. In fact we are.

We are, as British Citizens, entitled to some healthcare services via MEDICARE. I had no idea and for two months havent been signed up. Nevertheless, I am going to be. We are entitled to medical treatment and reviews of a necessary nature for the duration of our stay.

All you need to do is go to a Medicare office local to you (I went to 135 King Street, Sydney) with your passport and a PRINTED copy of you visa then fill in the enrollment form, they will not accept electronic versions on smartphones or tablets. I would advise you to go as early as possible to avoid the cues, however, it may be necessary to make an appointment to return.

You can also download the form and call for an appointment if you don’t fancy waiting around. HERE is the information from Medicare I didn’t have, I can now pass it on to you my lovely readers and fellow backpackers.

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Backpackers gluten free vegan lentil burgers

So here is the first of what I hope will be many backpacker recipes and food ideas.

Being a backpacker is hard, food is expensive, you have limited food storage space, the possibility of it getting stolen or used and contaminated by other backpackers and there may very well be limited cooking appliances and utensils.

So far it’s been fairly warm so we have had the ease of eating salads and thanks to my flexible friend…my own little travel chopping board that my amazing mother-in-law bought me, I can chop anywhere safely! Win!

GF Tip: buy your own flexible lightweight chopping board!

So along with salads what else can we have that is cheap, easy and packed with protein …Lentils?? But not just any lentils, how about Mediterranean lentil burgers? They are simple, gluten free and vegan to boot!

Anita made them while I directed and chopped salads so it really was a team effort as it usually is these days, so heres how we did it.

You’ll need (these ingredients are cheap in Australia’s supermarkets; Woolworths, IGA, Coles):

2 cups of your favoured lentils (we used red split);
2 cups water;
1 chopped onion;
1 table spoon of mediteranian herbs (or whatever takes your fancy, I love Cajun Spices too);
1/3 cup of polenta (ground corn meal).

Here’s how they’re done:

Add all ingedients except the polenta to a pan and bring to the boil until the lentils have completely absorbed the water and reached a”mushy” consistency.

Place them on a cold plate to cool and then spread the polenta on a clean chopping board or plate.

When the lentils are cooled, spoon off palm sized portions and shape the burgers (yes you will get messy at this point). Once you have the shape coat them in the ground polenta to make a crispy skin.

Once you have made all the burgers simply fry in a bit of low fat spray oil or olive oil until golden, the burgers can then be served hot or stored and served cold within a couple of days of being refridgerated. I tried both ways and must say I preferred them cold as the cooling down helps them to set.

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We had limited kitchen space and storage but if you are makimg them at home try making them the day before, but do not fry, just store in a container with grease proof paper to set and then fry when you want to eat them….and of course leave comments and let me know how they work for you.

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Organic Produce (Review)

We arrived in Sydney on Friday 1st March and after some time sorting out our hostel booking we decided to scope out the area. We had heard Surrey Hills was a beautifully chic area so we trotted on down. It was raining heavily, I needed caffeine and a toilet. Hard luck … virtually no cafes in Sydney have toilets, the majority are hole in the wall stop-offs or Seven Elevens purely for convenience.

Then we stumbled upon this beautiful little miracle with a friendly gluten free sogn o the door, it really was the best find ever. Inside is small and as you walk in there are shelves upon shelves of organic and allergy friendly produce. There is also a deli counter at the front with an array of gluten free items, there were wraps, cakes, muffins, sandwiches and banana bread. I was literally spoiled for choice.

We sat toward the rear near the open kitchen and we could see the staff frantically preparing the fresh wraps, it was nice to see a venue take pride in their food preparation for a change and not hiding behind closed doors. This was where we realised that the delicious looking wraps up front were not made with tortillas but with wafer thin savoury crepes. The atmosphere was cosy and the free water and table service made a rainy day brighten up a little.

We ordered a flat white and a slice of banana bread each and at a total bill of just under $20 I thought it was slightly expensive, however, I am a backpacker and local prices are high for anything that has a special edge. The coffee was smooth and the banana bread was served warm with butter and it really hit the spot.

For the service received by the friendly and welcoming staff and the choice available to little old celiac me it is worth the price and the effort to find … I could not complain and I will return!

Website Here

Facebook Page Here

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City Rail, an experience! Melbourne to Strathfield (Sydney)

I have to appologise for my lack of posting and I realise it’s somewhere near a week between posts, however, in my defense (and I write this as I have a very bad cold) it is proving rather difficult by phone. Also we have been using all of our free time to look for work…and getting a little tipsy, well we did come here to meet more people even if it is over a box of cheap wine!

So, for a quick update to our family/friends and anyone else who is interested, I’ll tell you what we have been up to (starting with our transportation). We had been in Melbourne for a few days and needed to make our way back to NSW, we had plans arranged for the Sydney Mardi Gras so needed a quick and cheap way to get back. We decided to go by night train, it would take 12 hours and save us some money on accomodation. We used our student cards and paid $136.88 and we had 20kg of checked luggage and 7kg of hand luggage. Now you’re probably thinking the same thing as I did, checked luggage? I thought that kinda rubbish was for planes only…well no it’s not.

Trains that go through different states do this. When we arrived at Melbourne Southern Cross station we went worriedly to check in our bags, hoping we weren’t over weight, then we weighed them and used our old suitcase luggage straps to secure them. Our bags weren’t the most expensive and the secure straps aren’t designed to be used for lifting the full weight of the rucksack. So I used my Magic Marker to write on my luggage strap “please lift using this strap”. The man at the desk was a little impatient but he did pass my bag through using the strap…he should have because he watched me faff about with it for long enough. We were worried where our bags were going to end up as we had to leave the train at Strathfield not Sydney, so when the baggage guy was putting luggage on the train (the same guy who checked them in) we watched him load the luggage. He pointed to a bag and mouthed to Anita “your bag” then launched it onto thw train. Anita turned to me worried and claimed “I’m sure he didn’t use your strap!”

We got on the train and the seats had plenty of room and other than inconsiderate passengers and constant air con it wasn’t such a bad journey. The food car operated throughout the night except for one hour at staff changeover, they even had a range of gluten free cookies, muffins and sandwiches. How awesome!

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The problem arose when we had to switch trains at Strathfield, our bags were thrown onto the platform and true to our suspicions one of my clips had been broken on the secure strap to the front of my backpack. I was so annoyed What made it worse was that there are luggage compartments on in the carriages big enough for backpacks and suitcases. In actual fact we didn’t need to book our bags in at all, we found that out later on from staff.

So travellers who use these train services because they are cheap and convenient, I have two tips:

1- take your luggage into the carriage with you and use the rack;

2- if you must check in your luggage, use a rain cover (if your bag has one) and a luggage strap to remove the option for them to lift any other way.

Categories: Australia, Gluten Free, Reviews, Travelling Tales & Tips | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

4 nights in Melbourne

DAY 1 When we arrived in Melbourne we checked into the Nomads All Nations Hostel (Review Here) it was basic but all that we needed as a base. We stayed in a 12 bed mixed dorm and over the course of our 3 nights there we met a few random and a few lovely people. Our first night we met back up with a nice German girl from the GOR tour and went for a walk to catch our bearings.  Later on we then settled down for the night and agreed to go on the free bus tour of Melbourne the next morning.

DAY 2 and we woke bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to experience Melbourne I did a 5km run along the Yarra river that was perfect and we used a free map from the hostel travel shop to locate the nearest bus stop for the free tour.  There was just one problem… the bus stop had been decommissioned so we had to walk to the Federation Square stop. The bus journey was nice although it was a little hard to see because it was in a standard bus (an open top or double decker would have served it better). It was free and offered a great way to figure out where things are around the city and a free hop on-off mode of transport. The whole journey takes around 1.5 hours to complete.

When we got off the bus at Federation Square and got a lot of tourist information about things to do but the weather was so hot we just wanted to chill out for a while so we spent some time sat under a tree, I put my feet in some mud and stood on my diary. After that we went into the ACMI centre (Australian Centre for the Moving Image – Trip Advisor review here) where they had some exhibitions on the history of the moving image, talking about TV, film, video games, interactive moving image and the ideas behind them and their ability to possibly tell the future of the new kinds of technology to be invented. I really enjoyed the experience and it was free to enter.

After that we slowly wandered back down towards the hostel and found a sushi bar, Sea Salt (blog review here) that pretty much had most of their meals gluten free and provided gluten free soy sauce so I needn’t miss out. There was a busker on the corner of the alley way who really provided the perfect soundtrack to alfresco dining, he displayed a sign saying “smile, life’s too short!” and he really did make me smile. It was such a perfect day.

On our way back to the hostel we found a bottle shop and bought a bottle of Malibu and some Coke to go with it.We were sat in the room when a couple of the other girls came in and the night pretty much  became messy starting with us receiving $100 worth of free drinks for a Ukranian man. The night ended in a park with a bottle of Captain Morgan and a bottle of coke belonging to a young English guy and being consumed by 3 British girls, 2 French Guys, 1 Spanish guy and the English guy whos alcohol it was. We were wearing bottle protector mesh because we thought we were transformers, I was attempting sit ups with a 6kg medicine ball that we found in the park and all in all we had a really good night and met some brilliant people … traveller hostel style.

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Getting creating in Federation Square

DAY 3 in Melbourne started with a hangover and no milk because another traveller had decided they needed it more than we did. So I bought Anita some crumpets and we had a nice big breakfast. We were supposed to be going to the Victoria Market (Trip Advisor review here) at around 9am … we just didn’t get out of bed until 9am so we managed to arrive there at around 12:30pm.

The food market was brilliant and we got some great bargains for our evening meal. It really is the cheapest place to shop for fresh produce and you can’t get more fresh that the market. The rest of the market was made up of clothes stalls, tourist stalls with cheap souvenirs , confectionary stalls, world food stalls and just about anything you could imagine. I bought a 925 sterling silver toe ring for $16 and I was really happy with that purchase. I’ve been finding it hard to find a sterling one so my toe doesn’t turn that nasty shade of green you get with costume jewellery.

The rest of the day we spent walking, and walking and walking with the intention of finding the camera museum I’d seen advertised but we would not have made it before closing which was annoying and we still felt a little tender from the night before so we took home our steak and rice salad ingredients via the free City Circle Tram and ate like queens to the envy of the rest of the hostel.

So far we were really enjoying Melbourne and there was just so much to do we couldn’t possibly have the time to do it all so we decided to stick around for one more day as this was our last night in the hostel. I had just showered and was ready for bed when 2 girls from the tour knocked on our door with promises of a pub quiz at their hostel.

So I left Neet in bed and was ready to go in 10 minutes. We spent that much time talking in the quiz we were losing the rounds so I did what I saw others doing … cheated, only I got caught and scolded like a school child. A few ciders later and I was on my way back to the hostel … loudly!

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Exhibitions at ACMI

DAY 4 We chose some privacy and comfort of the Easystay Motel St Kilda (Trip Advisor review here).we checked out of the hostel and located the Motel, we were early and the room wasn’t ready but we were allowed to store our luggage and off we went back onto the tram to go outlet shopping at Harbour Town. We found some amazing bargains and it really is worth a visit. I got some board shorts for $2.50 from Valley Girl and a $40 bikini reduced to $10 from Factorie. WINNER!

Later we returned to St Kilda and walked along the jetty, we met a very interesting very old Greek man who told us he was from Lesbos and therefore a “Lesbian” he claimed that the birth of the term “Lesbian” for gay women came from the island because many years ago a father left the island to his daughter “Lesbos”. During the night the island became target for thieves and the men decided the only way to protect the island was to sit in boats off the shore with weapons to also prevent invasion from the nearby Turks. During this time the women became lonely and began to seek comfort in the arms of each other. He said he had a book detailing the story as no-one ever believed him, I haven’t read into his theory but I am sure I will at some point.

After this we decided to return to sit on the jetty later in the evening to wait for the fairy penguins to come on shore, so we got a pizza from Domino’s and sat, waited and watched the sunset with our friends from the GOR tour. After this we had $5 house spirits in an awesome bar called 29th Apartment that also had the coolest vibe and décor I have seen. There was a bathtub with cushions, a double bed, TV sets as tables and drinks crates as chairs.

Our final day we didn’t do much before our train to Sydney  wandered along the beach and played cards next to a young guy making a sand sculpture, we also watched the preparations for wedding on the beach. All in all we really enjoyed Melbourne and I think we will go back there later on in our trip and spend a real amount of time there, doing the things we missed out on and look for work.

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Sea Salt (review)

After a hard day touring Melbourne we got a little hungry. We walked past many restaurants and nothing jumped out at us. That was until I saw this little restaurant serving sushi and advertising tjat gluten free options were available.

I was a little doubtful at first but went in to speak to the young guy behind the counter. He was really helpful and told me that all fish that came battered could be served without and that all sushi rolls were made gluten free.

There were other interesting looking sides I liked the look of he quinoa salad but as usual when faced with so much choice I panic. We decided on 2 packs of 8 sushi rolls one plane salmon and the  other salmon and avocado. The restaurant even sold gluten free soy sauce at 30c a portion.

It was the first time I have had sushi since being gluten free and it was delicious. The restaurant is down an alley with a great al fresco vibe and it really was the perfect end to a hectic day.

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Adelaide to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road

So our second week in Adelaide was spent with family, Anita’s family, and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. We walked 15km on a few occasions down the coastal path, just for the sake of it and because the view was beautiful. We were lucky enough to catch one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.

IMG_20130212_233032Sunset Adelaide Coastal Path

We watched the kids at Surf Life Saving training and compete in the carnival on Glenelg beach. I had a go at paddle boarding and Anita had a go at surfing. I also started to develop some real skills with a rip stick. Then it was time to leave, we booked Adelaide Motel & Backpackers (Trip Advisor review here) for $22 for the night. Anita’s niece dropped us off in Adelaide city, we had ditched the suitcases and transferred our gear to our rucksacks (with a lot of effort and standing on stuff). I also did a typical Tanya thing to do and left my bank card on the kitchen counter … great, Tanya, well done! Anita’s niece graciously dropped it off for me thought with two old pillowcases “just in case” … Thanks!

The morning after (DAY 1) we set off for the YHA to be collected by TopDeck Travel for our tour. Our guide PJ was a cheesy and bad joke telling man who kept us happy all the way through, he was actually very knowledgeable on local and world history and appeared to take genuine interest in the topic. He also came equipped with a microphone and asked each of us to introduce and talk about ourselves …. I cracked on (I’m sure I have mentioned I like to talk) but Anita did her big spoon trick and wouldn’t even touch it (this is how she avoids being given a big spoon to eat with). PhotoGrid_1361666764818

Grampians waterfall; 12 Apostles sunset; Grampians hike

We slept through a good chunk of the 600km (and counting) drive to the Grampians National Park. We stopped at Bordertown which was first settled in 1842 but is most known for the way it was used post 1952 for miners to stop over on the route between Melbourne to Adelaide with their police escorts for the gold miners in Vitoria. We also saw the white kangaroos Tatiara Wildlife Park, they were bred using handpicked white kangaroos that had developed due to a genetic shift.

We stopped over for lunch along the way PJ ordered in varieties of wraps, I got a tasty gluten free grilled fish salad which I really enjoyed in the heat. When we first landed at the Grampians we walked down approximately 100 steps to sit at the bottom of the Silverband falls, we could see the rainbow forming in the mist from the rocks and it was one of the most peaceful moments I think I have ever experienced. As we were walking I remember seeing so many lightning scorched trees and their centres cracked open, there had been spot fires due to storms the day before.

We then checked into the Grampians Motel (Trip Advisor review here) and there were so many wild kangaroos just running around, it was really quite something. Their running got more frantic later in the evening when we were sat in the mess kitchen (which happened to be the equivalent of a well fitted tin can) for our gluten free BBQ prepared by PJ, during the longest and most severe lightning storm I have ever seen. The forks of lightening were huge and the thunder was so loud it sounded like a crash of heavy duty trucks. The facilities at the Grampians motel were brilliant (except the free Wi-Fi didn’t want to work), we were placed in a room kitted for a family of 5. There were only 4 of us and I got a nice double bed to myself. There were tea/coffee facilities, refrigerator, dining table, TV and a menu that included gluten free meals…what’s not to like. Let’s just say I had a brilliant night’s sleep. PhotoGrid_1361666893889

Mountain hike; Loch and Gorge

DAY 2 I woke up, showered and went back to the mess kitchen to be greeted by a table sporting 2 loafs of gluten free bread and two boxes of cereals … I was spoiled for choice thanks again to PJ. It was a good job because we were being taken on a mammoth hike up one of the mountains in the park. It was hard and you really needed solid shoes, but it really was worth the effort because the view from the top was breathtaking and the natural environment we walked through was beautiful. We reached the top and I just had to sit at the edge of the cliff and take in the views, everyone else went to the viewing platform but I wanted no restraints … it was only when I looked back at the pictures did I realise actually how scary it was looking down. At the time I had a body full of adrenaline where the fear should have been and I genuinely felt invigorated.

We saw a bit of wildlife along the way like a wallaby and a couple of Crimson Rosellas, PJ slowed the bus when we saw these in case he hit one as he said if he did the other would die of a broken heart. The next port of call was Brambuk National Park where we enjoyed a cultural experience learning about the tale of creation from the Aboriginal history and we painted our own boomerang, it really didn’t take long for us all to start acting like 5 year olds with finger paint and for Anita to get bored and paint her bracelets instead of the boomerang. In truth it really was a lot of fun. I artfully (or so I think) represented a little story using symbols, mine says in Australian waters  I idiotically did the symbol for running water rather than still) there are beautiful seahorses. Then it continues on to say in 2013 we saw kangaroos jumping in the grass under the stars. I am immensely proud of my boomerang so please keep all mocking to a minimum or I may launch it at your heads.

Following the experience we began to hit the Great Ocean Road. On this section of the drive we visited Peterborough beach for a little dip, the Bay of Martyrs, Bay of Islands, London Bridge (which broke away from the mainland with a couple on to, the couple happened to be a man and his mistress who were outed by the news media), the Loch and Gorge where we sat for a while taking in the breathtaking views. Finally before we stopped at the 12 Apostles to watch the sunset we ate a meal of chicken schnitzel, chips and salad for dinner (mine came without the crumbs).

After the sunset we checked into Port Campbell Hostel (Trip Advisor review here), we stayed in a female 6 bed dorm which was really nice and clean, the shower was powerful and the bath tub huge. Also the communal areas and kitchen were huge and well equipped. Again we had trouble with a WIFI connection even though we got provided with an hour free we couldn’t connect which was quite frustrating.

PhotoGrid_1361666858303

My boomerang; sleepy Koala; the Great Ocean Road sign; cool hot rod

DAY 3 again we woke up the next morning I packed my bag and tried to put it on…but I failed as the bed I had it balanced on decided to move and ensure I land on my bum with my back practically on my head. At breakfast I was served my gluten free goodies and the rest of the crew were served pancakes. We then drove around 1.5 hours to Otway Fly Treetop Walk, we had admission for walking only but there was a zip line there. We were given around an hour to walk around the park and up the steel structure that took you up into the tree tops. It was a very nice experience and it was mixed with lots of information about current and prehistoric life in the area including some of the oldest trees. Although it was nice I wouldn’t say it was one of my favourite parts of the trip.

From there we drove to Appolo Bay for lunch, I had my ipod in for the 2hour journey and enjoyed viewing the beautiful scenery. The land appeared to be really dry and it resembled a scene from the Lion King. When we got to Apollo Bay we were released to fend for ourselves for a while for some free time I swore blind PJ asked us to return for 1:30pm…but it wasn’t it was 1pm. Ooops! He went driving looking for us for around 20 minutes and I was a little sheepish. I liked Apollo Bay, it was a little touristy but it was relaxed and had a nice atmosphere.

From here we hurried to Kennett River Holiday Park (due to my lateness) to see the wild Koalas sleeping, if I could have one as a pet I would I have never seen a more beautiful creature. Next we set off to the start of the Great Ocean Road (we did the trip in reverse) and took the cliché pictures under the sign (of course we would…who wouldn’t).

During the trip PJ filled us in on various tales of history, animal life, jokes, love stories and much more (mainly because there was no stereo in the leased bus) and I think we all really enjoyed his company. He told us about various things we saw along the road, about a 5kg gold nugget being found as recently as 5 weeks ago in the state of Victoria and about the myths surrounding the great white shark as one of the most vicious sharks.

We arrived in Melbourne around 6:30pm and PJ at bus stop had been decommissioned were given more time at the stop offs and to spread out the amount of driving over maybe an extra day would have been perfect….and I didn’t get poisoned! Bonus!

Categories: Australia, Travelling Tales & Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Planning to get back to Sydney!

Since we arrived in Adelaide we have spent a serious numbers of hours planning our way back out, that’s not to say we haven’t enjoyed ourselves. It just means that in between the fun moments we have also been planning a trip to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road and back up to Sydney for the upcoming Mardi Gras parade on the 2nd March. We just couldn’t figure out a way to do it that suited us.

Firstly we were going to book a tour through some travel companies, then we were going to hire a car or camper and rough it, then we were going to buy a hundredth hand camper van … it all just got really complicated. Why? Credit Cards or lack thereof. You see Anita and I have been brought up with the outlook that if we couldn’t afford it we couldn’t have it, so we have never had a use for a credit card. This fact has turned out to be a royal pain in the rear for us not having credit cards, we even toyed with the idea before we left the UK but in all honesty debt scares me and I don’t really understand all the T/C’s. I think the companies throw so much unreadable nonsense at you that you leave dazed and confused after having sold them your soul.

So tours…..there were so many companies to choose from and we had brochures coming out of our ears, we were so overwhelmed with information we couldn’t decide. Not only were there many tours for a range of prices, conveniently there were none that went from Adelaide around to Sydney. We would have had to split it over two tours that may or may not have connected in the middle at Melbourne. We would also need to book hostels in Adelaide for pickup, in Melbourne if the next tour didn’t leave in time and at our Sydney destination … it all just seamed like a lot of hassle. We didn’t have a great deal of time to organise and travel and we hadn’t transferred any more money from the UK (usually I am mega organised, not in Australia). The best tour brochures we found were:

STA Travel (this really is packed full of useful information, I wish they had it in PDF)

Topdeck Travel (provide gluten free meals)

Groovy  Grape (provide gluten free meals)

G Adventure

Contact these companies via Twitter for quicker responses, this was how I found out they provide gluten free meals.

So if we wanted to hire a camper/car we had a few options where the liability is concerned, they have a few options but the obvious 2 are:

Pay no daily rate for liability, however, they will charge and freeze  up front an amount of around $3,000 dollars in case you screw up with their vehicle along the way;

Pay a daily rate for liability cover of between $25-50 per day.

Other than this they charge between $200-500 for one way fees $3-5 per day for a second driver, $10 per day for sat nav hire, $10-20 for linen and a host of extras.

The problem for us is that most would not accept debit cards only credit cards.

In terms of hiring a camper on this occasion it did not suit us because we were crossing two states one-way, didn’t have credit cards, did’t want to pay so many added fees for liability and didn’t wan’t them to freeze so much of our money to decide that we had caused x-amount of damage so we were’t getting our money back. We  may hire a camper for other journeys that aren’t so complicated in the future but for now it just wasn’t for us, we did find these cool and cheap sites though:

Mighty Campers

Wicked Campers

Camper Travel

Finally we thought of buying a camper van, so we checked out Gumtree and found quite a few for a good prices and we were really excited that the majority came with all the necessary camping equipment. It was obvious they had been bought and sold by travellers. We then had to consider if our UK licences were sufficient, the registration costs and hassles of moving between states for a period of time (vehicles must be registered within certain timeframes for each state) this Australian Government website gives useful links to relevant information of licensing and registration. We also had no idea how long any of this would take and to be honest didn’t want the hassle, all we wanted was a fun trip with the chance to make our way back to Sydney, see some more of Australia and meet new people. We decided by driving that we were isolating ourselves, making a commitment far too early in our trip and we were pushing our luck time wise. So we decided this wasn’t for us.

So what did we decide???

We decided to go with a Topdeck Southern Cross tour in reverse, we fell lucky that there were only three seats left and at a %10 reduction. This takes us from Adelaide to Melbourne over 3 days via the Great Ocean Road and the Grampians. We have no onward plan … just organising this was a headache (like most couples we just have communication problems). We booked the tour via Escape Travel in Hallet Cove, the agent was really helpful and advised us that she would contact us once Topdeck had confirmed they had sufficient accommodation for us as well as seat on the coach …after they had taken our money. We were expecting to hear from them the day after, we didn’t. We then called and emailed until we had it confirmed two days after booking. By this time we still hadn’t booked hostels in case we couldn’t go on the tour and were given a refund amid the possibility of having to make alternative plans.

After this searching for hostels was also a pain, some places didn’t have the correct availability, some where overpriced with terrible reviews, some were just way out of the way of where we needed to be and some websites WOULD ONLY ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS!

Again with making a backpackers life difficult!

We eventually booked 3 hostels:

Adelaide Motel & Backpackers via Hostel World,  we are being collected from Adelaide for the tour and we paid $22 each for 1 night in a 6 bed mixed dorm.

Nomads All Nations Melbourne via their own website for $26 each per night for 3 nights in a 12 bed mixed dorm. We saw the same hostel on Hostel Bookers for the same price, only they wanted to take the 10% deposit in GBP! Seemed odd!

Alfred Park Budget Accommodation via Hostel World for between $25-26 per night for 3 nights for us 2 and a friend.

When using Hostel World we paid $10 to remove the $2 booking free, this is valid for 12 months and as they are usually the cheapest comparison agent it will be beneficial for us.

Keep tuned for how are trip actually went!

Categories: Australia, Travelling Tales & Tips | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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